Aeradio in the Bombing of Darwin - 1942

The outstanding contribution which DCA’s Aeradio service made to Australia’s War effort is legendary. There are many documented accounts of the experiences of these officers, and the following extract of one man’s experience of the first bombing raid on Darwin on 19 February 1942 is typical.

"The first raid on Darwin was for me a 40 minute period of embarrassment, my first warning being the crash of bombs and the crackle of machine gun fire which commenced whilst I was taking a shower at my home at about 10am. As these were falling sufficiently close to be uncomfortable, I sprinted to and fell into a slit trench, clad in shoes and tin hat only. Recovering composure and clothing at the conclusion of the raid, a roll call of aerodrome staff found all correct and uninjured."

"Fully anticipating a second raid, a quick conference decided that communications should be re-established immediately, the raid having dislocated all power and telephone lines with one exception; our direct line to ‘VID’ [the AWA Coastal Radio Station]. Radio Inspector Betts was therefore instructed to proceed to VID and first, to re-establish the Darwin Aeradio link, and then to instruct all other Aeradio stations to prohibit the movement of civil aircraft into the Darwin area until further notice. The radio service was restored by mid-afternoon."

"At the Aerodrome, the ground staff under the supervision of Mr Blake, made attempts to control the fires caused by bombs on Departmental buildings. These proved futile as most of our fire fighting apparatus including the fire tender was found to be almost burnt out by the end of the raid. Excellent work was performed by this party by salvaging a considerable quantity of stores and equipment from the blazing buildings and through their efforts with fire hoses hurriedly collected from the nearby RAAF huts."

"Later that afternoon, owing to the final breakdown of all communications with the civil Aerodrome, I transferred my headquarters to VID, and from there full control of all civil movements, advices to Aviat [DCA’s telegraphic address at Head Office] and to outstations were maintained. In addition, numerous RAAF operational advices were received. These services were carried out at VID for about five days."

"A Naval Intelligence despatch rider was placed at my disposal, and this enabled all telegraphic signals traffic on aviation matters to be transmitted and received in a manner of minimum of delay, all such traffic had of a necessity to be sent and received at a temporary telegraph office 22 miles [35 km] from Darwin."

"I desire to state emphatically that my control of the situation was brought about only through the excellent co-operation of Mr Betts and his team of operators, who worked like Trojans on the day of the raids and for several days thereafter. Their chief topic of conversation being that Civil Aviation Darwin would not lose the then much valued communication facilities, the whole of their work was performed with that object in view. This was in addition to watch-keeping and numerous duties which such organisation demanded."

[Report by Arthur Tarlton, OIC Darwin - copy in CAHS collection]

Photo at top of page:
The Darwin Control Building was sandbagged after the start of the war in the Pacific as protection agains air raids.

Below: Darwin Aeradio c.late 1941. In this extemporised installation there is a Bellini-Tosi MF DF receiver on the desk at left, a commercial HF receiver in the middle and an AWA AS9 HF transmitter mounted on the wall at right. Note the batteries stacked on the floor.


Arthur Tarlton

Left: Arthur Tarlton was DCA OIC at Darwin in February 1942 at the time of the first Japanese air raid. Under Tarlton's leadership the Aeradio service was quickly returned to operation in temporary facilities after the raid.

In addition to Tarlton, Aeradio personnel in Darwin on 19 February 1942 were Radio Inspector E.G. 'Ted' Betts and Operators Bruce Acland, Ken Dalziel, Len McIntosh and Fred 'Tiger' Riley.


Left: DCA residences at the Parap civil aerodrome c.late 1941. Slit trenches have been dug for air raid protection and these provided shelter for the Aeradio personnel during the air raid of 19 February 1942.
Ken Dalziel

Left: Aeradio Operator Ken Dalziel in a slit trench at Parap, c.late 1941.

Dalziel had been a radio operator in the RAAF, posted to Darwin in the mid-1930s to provide communications for the Qantas D.H.86 service to Singapore. When Qantas began operating Short S.23 Empire flying boats in 1938, requiring a dedicated Radio Officer in the crew, Dalziel joined the airline. He resigned from Qantas to join DCA as an Aeradio Operator in 1939. Ken Dalziel transmitted the QQQ air raid warning signal on 19 February 1942.

Read more about Ken Dalziel

Ivan Hodder

Left: Radio Inspector Ivan Hodder in the same trench.

Hodder was not in Darwin at the time of the first air raid. He had been there to complete installation of the 33 Mc Radio Range beacon but finished a few days before the raid.

Read more about Ivan Hodder


The photo above shows the DCA airport Fire Tender burned out after the first raid of 19 February 1942. Unfortunately the tender caught alight early in the raid and was no use in putting out the subsequent fires. In the background at right is the hangar, at that time used by Guinea Airways. At left is the badly damaged airport Power House.

Below, a burned-out RAAF Lockheed Hudson at the '4 mile' RAAF aerodrome after the first raid.



(Photos: 1&2-CAHS/Ivan Hodder collection; 3-SAAM; 4&5-CAHS Ivan Hodder collection; 6&7-SAAM)

Read more about DCA's part in the Second World War

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